The Greatest Showman – Film Review by Katie McCann
Director: Michael Gracey
Writers: Jenny Bicks (screenplay by), Bill Condon (screenplay by)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron
The noblest art is that of making others happy. This famous quote from PT Barnum and the man himself are the inspiration behind The Greatest Showman, Twentieth Century Fox’s new musical. PT Barnum (Hugh Jackman) is a poor man with big dreams. He longs to rise above his station and give his wife and childhood sweetheart (Michelle Williams) the life he always longed for. After another failed job he hatches a plan to open his Great American Museum, bringing together the odd and macabre in one extravagant show, and a legend is born.
This story of the self-proclaimed creator of show business, and a man widely considered one of the greatest fraudsters of all time, is a fascinating choice of subject matter. But this is not a documentary and movie magic is more important here than any historical accuracy. With eleven original songs by Oscar and Tony Award winning Lyricists Pasek and Paul, this is a hark back to the Golden Age of Hollywood Musicals with a modern twist. As with their previous endeavour, La La Land, the soundtrack is infectiously catchy with strong pop influences that cry out for multiple listens. Particular mention must go to Keala Settle as the “Bearded Lady” and her solo This is Me. A real show stopping tune that allows the circus and all its magic to shine through and joyfully sparkle.
The stars of the show though are undoubtedly the costumes and cinematography. Combining old school Hollywood glamour with modern technology certain scenes are a true fest for the eyes. One particularly memorable dance number, between Williams and Jackman, takes place on a rooftop overlooking 19th Century New York. The use of CGI to rebuild the city and show off the two stars’ impeccable dance skills is truly stunning and captures the romanticism the film is so desperately reaching for.
Overall the film is an enjoyable depiction of the birth of the great American Three Ring Circus but unfortunately falls short of becoming a runaway hit by pulling its punches in the final act. Shying away from the genuine complexities and darkness of its deeply flawed leading man the film swings and misses at the very end. Still it manages to bow out on one final big number that will send you back into the real world as Barnum would want: Happy to have enjoyed the spectacle of it all.